Senior representatives and leaders from mapping organisations from across the world descended upon Southampton last week for a conference hosted by Ordnance Survey.
The Cambridge Conference – so named because of its historic ties to the city – is a unique and prestigious occasion. It gives top international experts the chance to discuss developments in mapping, changes in technology and issues of global importance.
The conference originates from a meeting in the summer of 1928, when leading surveyors were heading to Cambridge for the International Geographic Congress.
The British Colonial Survey Committee decided to take advantage of this to organise an Empire Conference of Survey Officers - 45 people attended, representing countries from Australia to Zanzibar.
As international events unfolded, the term Empire gave way to Commonwealth, before in 1995 the decision was taken to extend the meeting into a global event for all national mapping organisations.
This year the move away from Cambridge, due to the 500th birthday celebrations at St John’s College where the conference is normally held, gave delegates the chance to visit the home of Ordnance Survey and its recently completed new head office. Around 120 delegates from 53 countries were in attendance with the theme of the conference being ‘Mapping for a fairer and safer world.’
The varied conference programme included a number of famous keynote speakers. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who recently presented the BBC2 programme ‘Do We Really Need the Moon’, discussed the common ties between surveying the earth and the stars in her lecture entitled ‘Mapping the Universe.’
Professor Nigel Shadbolt, from the University of Southampton and a member of the Government’s Public Sector Transparency Board, delivered a keynote speech on the power of open government data and chaired a session entitled ‘Open Data: threat or opportunity?’
Delegates also heard first-hand testimony from the heads of the Japanese and New Zealand mapping agencies about the vital role played by geographic information throughout their country’s recent natural disasters.
Other sessions gave delegates the chance to debate a range of issues – from geographic information in Africa and the use of new technology and innovation through to new and closer ways of working.
Delegates came from six continents, from counties including Australia, Kenya, Nepal, Congo, St. Vincent, China and Brazil as well as Professor Paul Cheung, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division based in New York.
Greg Scott, Group Leader of the National Geographic Information Group within Geoscience Australia, commented: “The Cambridge Conference provides a chance to discuss a range of issues, both emerging and ‘front-of-centre’, but in a very outcome orientated way. It is also a fantastic opportunity to join up our communities and ourselves as individuals.
“The plenary sessions and guest speakers were particularly excellent, covering a wide range of topics.”
Magnús Guðmundsson, Managing Director of the National Land Survey of Iceland, added: “The Cambridge Conference is a tremendous way to meet colleagues from around the world. The key is to learn from each other. There is so much change in the world which is influencing our work; the conference is an invaluable way to communicate with each other and to keep up-to-date with the latest developments.”
Vanessa Lawrence CB, Ordnance Survey Director General and Chief Executive, said: “The Cambridge Conference is globally recognised as the flagship international conference for heads of national mapping agencies and I am delighted at the scope and quality of the speakers we had had the privilege to hear – it was a fascinating and exciting programme.
“I am also pleased that, even in these difficult economic times, we had delegates here from across the globe, including much of the developing world. I believe this demonstrates the tremendous importance geographic information plays in underpinning so much of people’s lives.”